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Howling at the Moon: The Odyssey of a Monstrous Music Mogul in an Age of Excess Hardcover – March 2, 2004

24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This memoir by Yetnikoff, the former president of CBS Records, may lead to hipsters changing the phrase "partying like a rock star" to "partying like the president of a record label." After joining CBS in 1962, Yetnikoff, who guided the careers of Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, among others, became addicted to power, sex, drugs and alcohol as he gave himself over to the everything-in-excess rock and roll lifestyle. Recruited to CBS by fellow lawyer and future music mogul Clive Davis, Yetnikoff, with the help of right-hand man Tommy Mottola, alternated between swinging deals and pissing off a who's who of entertainment's elite including Michael Eisner, David Geffen, Michael Ovitz and Steve Ross. Though once in a while it feels as if he is a name dropper of the highest level, Yetnikoff shows an unguarded side of musicians that the public rarely sees. Similarly, he sometimes still feels the need to prove he did the most coke or had the most sex, but for the most part the story of his downward spiral, which leads to losing his job and family and brings him to the edge of death, is captivating and even occasionally touching. Thanks to coauthor and music writer Ritz, the book maintains its fast pace and conversational style from start to finish so that, in the end, Yetnikoff's raucous life story becomes a cautionary tale, with a steady backbeat. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A deliciously decadent read.” —People

“A dizzying ride on the turntable of life.”
New York Times

“Few record-company heads have written autobiographies, and fewer still have penned ones as candid as Howling at the Moon . . . Yetnikoff knows what readers want.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Brisk, uncensored and often hilarious . . . highly entertaining.”
Kirkus Reviews

“An un-put-downable repository of A-list gossip and narco-fueled weirdness.”


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; 1 edition (March 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767915364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767915366
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #432,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Andrius Uzkalnis on March 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This could have been a tired collection of name-dropping and anecdotes, but it is not - Yetnikoff offers a gripping tale of driving in ultra-fast lane with no brakes.
Many books of this type are reduced to sorry self-important ramblings because their esteemed authors take themselves too seriously and view "stories of their lives" as something approaching gospels. They want every word in their folios to be significant. Some of them are under impression that they did not simply live their lives but went from one revelation of supreme truth to another. Yetnikoff, meanwhile, is endearingly immune to all this. His story of excess and permanent alcohol-, drug- and sex-induced stupor is told in a relaxed and unassuming way.
And, of course, famous names and their albums and songs really put this into the context of the era. I enjoyed every bit of the book.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By L Goodman-Malamuth VINE VOICE on March 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"There is the scum of the earth, and what lives under the scum of the earth, and under this we have music lawyers," fictional touring musician Vernon Shakely often remarked in Laurie Colwin's novel, "Goodbye Without Leaving."
Walter Yetnikoff might have been perversely proud to be included in the fictitious Shakely's asssessment of music industry lawyers. Unfortunately, his attempt to present himself as a formerly nice Jewish boy/Columbia Law grad turned baaaaaad example of Seventies excess keeps falling flat, despite the potential richness of material. Given that his co-author is the gifted David Ritz, whose other biography subjects include Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, and Aretha Franklin, one can only imagine how incoherent Yetnikoff's prose was before Ritz attempted to take it in hand. It appears that at some point, Ritz must have given up in despair.
The book begins with a detailed sexual fantasy about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis ("Jack was a powerful lover, Ari was a passionate man, but you, Walter... you're nothing short of astounding," she cooes), followed by a suspiciously well-organized three-page "recollection" of a business luncheon Yetnikoff holds, just the two of them, at "21" with Mrs. Onassis. There she recaps his entire career in highly flattering terms, and urges him to write a "highbrow" memoir.
Well, poor Mrs. Onassis is dead and can't defend herself. But putting those words--if indeed she said them--into her mouth demonstrates the size of Yetnikoff's ego, which overwhelms what could have been a fascinating book. It is sort of fascinating, but for all the wrong reasons.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
My all-time favorite music business story involves a conversation between Walter Yetnikoff and David Geffen. It is a story that is both hysterically funny and, in its own way, appalling. I had considered it to be apocryphal but there it is, confirmed not once but twice, in HOWLING AT THE MOON, Walter Yetnikoff's autobiography.
Yetnikoff joined CBS Records Group as legal counsel in 1961 when its primary label imprints were Columbia and Epic. If you rummage through your record collection you undoubtedly have discs bearing Columbia's red label (Johnny Mathis, Mitch Miller, The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan) and Epic's yellow one (The Dave Clark Five, The Yardbirds). He was by 1975 President of the CBS Record Group, having transformed it into one of the most successful record labels in music history. The deal Yetnikoff brokered between CBS Records and a Japanese company named Sony continues to influence the music industry for good and for ill to this very day. It also, in part, contributed to Yetnikoff's downfall. HOWLING AT THE MOON is the story of Yetnikoff's meteoric rise and fall, and personal resurrection. It doesn't matter if you have never cared a whit about how records are made or rarely get to the shelves of your favorite retailer --- this book is an absolute joy to read on every conceivable level.
Yetnikoff brought about the success of CBS Records with a combination of brilliance and belligerence, uniting vision and business sense with a single-minded, obsessive pursuit of success. HOWLING AT THE MOON traces Yetnikoff's life, from his humble beginnings --- his family was what would now be called "working poor" --- to his ultimate, dazzling success.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Andy Orrock VINE VOICE on June 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Walter Yetnikoff's "Howling at the Moon" is a great read. The author is stone-cold honest about his history - morphing from a poor kid in Brooklyn to Columbia Law graduate to "Jimmy Olsen greenhorn" in the music business to master business builder to *the* out-of-control legendary wildman of the music business to abrupt sobriety to betrayal, fall, a period in the wilderness and redemption. What a tale.
Where else are you going to get insights on Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Marvin Gaye and Mick Jagger mixed with equally eye-opening passages on Tom Wyman, Norio Ohga, Akio Morita and Bill Paley?
The Paley passages are especially enlightening - the controlling, secretive builder of the Tiffany network and the wildman of CBS/Columbia records were as unlikely a pairing as you could imagine, but Paley appreciated Yetnikoff's undeniable ability to make money and, as Paley says upon taking his leave from CBS, "in this office, that did not go unnoticed."
Despite Yetnikoff's well-documented demons, his track record in the business is unassaible: when he left, CBS/Columbia was still pulling in $450 million a year in *net* profits. True, Yetnikoff's successors had to deal with a more vexing set of assaults on the recorded music business model, but you need to give the guy his due.
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